Apple has managed to gain the absolute leadership of smartwatches by combining three factors in a single device: permanent connectivity, fitness, and health care. The new Apple Watch Series 5 does not arrive with as many innovations as last year’s model, which released a new design with a larger screen surface and the possibility of registering ECG, but it brings interesting improvements such as the always active screen and the integrated compass, as well as new material options.
The Apple Watch Series 5 also comes with watchOS 6 that adds new health features, as well as new apps and access to the App Store from the wrist.
Apple Watch Series 5 In-depth analysis and opinion
Apple Watch Series 5: Design and construction
Last year, Apple released a new design with the Apple Watch Series 4 that was characterized by narrower frames surrounding the screen and rounded corners. With these changes, Apple managed to increase the screen size of the clock without a significant increase in the size of the case.
This year, the Apple Watch Series 5 repeats the same design as last year, with an almost square-shaped case that moves away from completely round conventional watches.
One of the aspects that most attract the attention of the Apple Watch Series 5 is its large screen that, as we will see later, now remains on all the time.
Apple offers the watch in two case sizes: 40 mm and 44 mm. The first one is indicated for people with dolls of 130 to 200 mm, while the second one is designed for dolls of 140 to 220 mm.
One of the innovations of the Apple Watch Series 5 is that it is available in four possible materials: aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, and white ceramic.
As for the straps, Apple offers a wide variety of models to customize the look of your watch: sports straps of a high-performance fluoroelastomer, sports loop straps made of flexible nylon fabric, leather straps, and stainless steel straps.
The straps can be easily attached to the watch, which makes it easier to change the strap on the fly if you go to the gym, go out at night, go to work, etc. However, be careful with those that are not original as they may not fit properly and even damage the watch case.
On the right side of the watch case, we find the Digital Crown, which offers different functions when rotating, pressing or holding it tight. In case you opt for the model with cellular connectivity, the crown will have a red ring around it.
The digital crown of the Apple Watch is one of its best features because it allows you to interact comfortably with the interface without having to put your fingers on the screen. Other watches require dragging your finger on the screen or turning the outer ring to interact with the interface, but it is not so comfortable.
Just below the digital crown is the microphone that picks up our voice when we make calls or talk to Siri. And below is the Side Button, which offers different functions by making a simple press, a double press or a long press. The button does not protrude but is flush with the surface but is not tactile but clickable.
To the left of the watch case, we find the speaker, which sounds much more powerful than we would think given its size.
On the back of the Apple Watch Series 5, we find a circular ring that corresponds to the electric heart rate sensor, as well as an optical heart rate sensor in the center.
The bottom is ceramic and sapphire crystal. These materials not only give it a more attractive appearance (even if it is not seen) but also improves cellular connectivity.
The Apple Watch Series 5 is submersible in water up to 50 meters, so it is possible to use it in the pool and in the sea for shallow-water activities. Apple warns that it should not be used for diving, water skiing or activities that involve high-speed water impacts or deep dives.
Apple Watch Series 5: Screen
The Apple Watch Series 5 has a Retina OLED LTPO screen always active with Force Touch. The Apple Watch Series 5 44 mm. It has a screen surface of 977 mm² with a resolution of 368 x 448 pixels. While the 40 mm model, It offers a screen surface of 759 mm² and a resolution of 324 x 394 pixels.
The main innovation of the Apple Watch Series 5 is that its screen is always active, so the selected sphere always remains visible. In previous models, when you were not using the watch, the screen turned off completely.
To save battery, the screen dims slightly when the wrist is down but regains its brightness when making the wrist turn to see the time or if we touch the screen. If we prefer, we can also rotate the digital crown so that the screen gradually lights up.
Since it is not always easy to lift your wrist or press the screen when you exercise, all exercise screens have been optimized for the active screen so that you can easily see your progress with just a glance. It is even possible to see your swimming metrics underwater.
If you are worried that the screen is always on when you are at the cinema or sleeping, we have good news. Cinema mode is still present and turns off the screen permanently while it is in use, so you will not disturb anyone.
Not to limit the autonomy of the watch even with the screen always on, Apple has incorporated a series of technologies aimed at reducing energy consumption.
The LTPO panel allows you to dynamically adjust the refresh rate from 60 Hz to just 1 Hz and the Apple Watch Series 5 incorporates a new, very low-consumption display controller, an efficient integrated power management circuit and a new ambient light sensor.
One of the most outstanding features of the Apple Watch Series 5 is the brightness of its screen, which reaches 1,000 nits – same as the previous model but more than double that of the Apple Watch Series 1. Thanks to this brightness value, we can see and Use the watch perfectly even under sunlight.
The Apple Watch Series 5 is submersible and Apple offers a mode that prevents accidental presses on the screen when underwater. This mode can be activated manually, and it is also activated automatically when we choose the swimming activity.
The way to unlock this mode is quite curious since we must rotate the digital crown so that the speaker emits a sound and expels the water that may have been left inside.
As in previous models, the screen has Force Touch technology that makes it sensitive to pressure. We can access certain menus and options by pressing hard on the screen. With the disappearance of 3D Touch on the new iPhone, the Apple Watch Series 5 is the only newly launched device that continues to offer this functionality.
Apple Watch Series 5: Hardware and performance
The Apple Watch Series 5 incorporates a dual-core S5 64-bit processor. This processor is accompanied by the W3 wireless chip with Bluetooth 5.0 support.
In practice, you do not notice a great improvement in speed compared to the Apple Watch Series 4 since it was already very fast. However, if you come from a watch of an earlier generation, such as the Apple Watch Series 3, you will notice shorter application load times and clock power.
The Apple Watch Series 5 has a Taptic Engine that makes the clock vibrate to indicate notifications or when performing breathing exercises. This vibration feels more like small tapping on the wrist than simple vibrations, and they are quite pleasant.
The Apple Watch Series 5 integrates a GPS chip, so we can go out and play without carrying the iPhone and the watch records the distance, speed, and itinerary you have traveled. Although other smartwatches also incorporate GPS, not all physical activity wristbands feature this functionality, which is very useful for athletes.
The Apple Watch Series 5 incorporates a gyroscope and an accelerometer that, among other things, can detect falls. This functionality allows detecting if the user has fallen by accident and offers to contact Emergencies. In addition, if it does not detect movement in a minute, call the emergency services and send a message to the emergency contacts with the location.
The models with cellular connectivity of the Apple Watch Series 5 allow international emergency calls. Thus, when you are traveling, the watch can contact emergency services in more than 150 countries even if your phone is not nearby or you do not even have a cell phone plan on the watch.
The fall detection function is disabled by default unless you have indicated in the Health app that is 65 years or older to avoid false positives (for example, if you are a person who practices action sports), but you can enable it from the app iPhone watch easily.
Apple has integrated a compass for the first time in the Apple Watch Series 5 and offers a Compass app that shows which cardinal point you are looking at along with altitude and inclines data. If you want, you can add a compass development to your sphere so you can quickly see where you are looking at all times. This information can be useful for people who go hiking or sailing.
In my opinion, the main advantage of the compass is that the Maps app now shows where you are looking, as in the iPhone. This is a great help to orient yourself in the street looking at the clock without having to use the iPhone.
The Apple Watch Series 5 can now show the elevation in your current location, which can be useful if you go for a walk, run or bike to know your current altitude along with what you have climbed during your workout.
Cellular connectivity allows you to use a virtual SIM that provides connectivity to the watch even if it is far from the iPhone.
With cellular connectivity, the Apple Watch Series 5 has Internet connectivity independent of the iPhone, so you can go outside for a walk or play sports while still receiving notifications and even voice calls.
In addition to cellular connectivity, the Apple Watch Series 5 can access WiFi networks. The connection parameters of the WiFi network are not set in the Watch but the watch copies all the access data of the networks that are configured in the iPhone.
The Apple Watch Series 5 can only be connected to 2.4 GHz networks, but not to 5 GHz networks.
A limitation of the WiFi connectivity of the Apple Watch Series 5 is that it is not compatible with the security protocols used in the wireless networks of many companies, nor with open WiFi networks that require logging in via a gateway, such as from many restaurants or shopping centers.
WatchOS 6 Interface and Functionalities
Like the previous models, the Apple Watch Series 5 allows us to receive notifications, interact with applications and track our physical activity.
Starting with notifications, it allows you to be aware of notifications without having to take your iPhone out of your pocket. This is the main use that I give to the clock on a day-to-day basis, as it allows me to be aware of chat messages, e-mails, calls and other notifications that are important to me (you can filter which ones you want to receive) without checking the phone every time I notice a vibration in my pocket.
In many cases, the information shown on the Apple Watch Series 5 screen is sufficient and I do not need to take out the iPhone or unlock it to see more details.
Some notifications include buttons to interact with the app and multimedia elements. The Instagram app or some instant messaging show images, although sometimes with poor quality.
Notifications are stored in the memory of the clock and we can access them by dragging the screen from top to bottom. A strong press with Force Touch on the screen allows you to erase all notifications of stroke.
The Apple Watch Series 5 offers customizable spheres that allow developments to display additional information. Apple does not allow third-party spheres, so we are limited to those offered by the company.
Among the offer of developments available, we find on the one hand the developments of Apple apps: activity, alarm, audiobooks, battery, bag, compass, search for people, calculator, calendar, house, cycle control, mail, stopwatch, mobile data, ECG, training, date, heart rate, ICA, UV index, rain, moon, maps, messages, music, voice memos, podcasts, radio, reminders, world clock, breathe, noise, sunrise/sunset, telephone, temperature, timer, time, wind and walkie-talkie. On the other hand, we also find developments from third-party apps that you have installed such as AutoSleep, Parcel, Pokémon GO, Netatmo, Shazam, Stocard, Uber, etc.
To access the apps installed on the Apple Watch Series 5, you must go to the Home screen, which is accessed with a press on the digital crown, where all the apps arranged in the form of a hive are displayed. The scrolling and zooming are quite fluid although it is not possible to create folders, so finding an app that we do not use can often be somewhat tedious given the screen size.
If we press the side button, we access a view with all open applications stacked vertically, and we can move between them by dragging our finger or rotating the digital crown. If we wish, we can configure the clock so that instead of showing recent apps, our favorite apps are displayed.
By dragging the main screen from the bottom end up, we access quick settings: cellular connectivity, WiFi, iPhone search, remaining battery, sound, do not disturb mode, walkie-talkie, theater mode, water mode, flashlight, airplane mode, and Airplay.
Most of the Apple Watch Series 5 configuration options are accessible only through the iPhone Watch app. From the clock itself, only a few adjustments can be made, such as activating Airplane and Do not disturb modes, activating/deactivating Bluetooth, adjusting the brightness level and text size, etc.
Siri is able to answer our questions by voice and, from watchOS 5, it is not necessary to say ‘Hey Siri’ but just raise your arm and bring the clock to our mouth.
Siri has improved with watchOS 6 and now you can ask it things like “What song is this?” Or “Who sings this song?” Siri can also search the web and show the main results on your wrist.
The Apple Watch Series 5 incorporates speaker and microphone, so we can use it to make hands-free calls. It is not necessary to glue the clock to the mouth but it is not convenient to move it too far if we want it to capture the sound well.
Another related functionality is the walkie talkie mode, which allows you to send short voice messages. As if it were a conventional walkie talkie, you must keep it pressed to speak and release to listen to your interlocutor.
The walkie talkie function is not very discreet since incoming voice messages are automatically played on the watch, without the need to accept communication beyond the first time for each contact. In this regard, I would like there to be some kind of warning – audible or tactile – that warns you that a message is being entered so that we can silence it if, for example, we are in the middle of a meeting.
One of the apps that I find most useful for the Apple Watch is Wallet since it allows you to show the cinema ticket, the train ticket, the boarding pass of the plane or loyalty cards from the watch itself without having to take out the iPhone.
Of course, Apple Pay continues to work in the Apple Watch Series 5 and a double press on the side button is all you need for the watch to be ready to pay in an instant. Once you get used to paying with the Apple Watch, it is more convenient and faster than with the iPhone.
Finally, watchOS 6 allows you to set a tone to sound every hour or let the watch’s Taptic Engine notify you with a discreet touch on your wrist. It is even possible to hold the dial with two fingers to hear the time out loud.
The Apple Watch Series 5 comes with a good number of pre-installed applications like Activity, Now it sounds (new!), Audiobooks (new!), Bag, Compass (new!), Search (new!), Calculator (New!), Calendar, Contacts, Training, Photos, Heart Rate, Mail, Maps, Messages, Music, Podcasts, Reminders (new!) Clock, Breathe, Noise (new!), Health, Phone, Time, Walkie-talkie and Wallet.
The Maps application is one of the best adapted to the Watch’s features, as it guides you to your destination by displaying simple navigation instructions on the watch screen. Also, with the integrated compass, it now shows where you are looking.
Carrying music, podcasts or audiobooks on the wrist is the dream of any athlete, as it avoids carrying a bulky phone on top. With Apple Watch Series 5, it is possible to transfer music from Apple Music, Book audiobooks and Podcast podcasts.
With 32 GB of integrated storage, you can save a lot of songs, podcasts and audiobooks on the Apple Watch Series 5 to play them from your wrist via Bluetooth headphones. In addition, Siri is very useful to ask the watch to reproduce a particular content.
Apple has incorporated some new apps in watchOS 6 such as Audiobooks that allow you to listen to millions of books from the watch itself. Voice Notes that offers a simple way to record things you want to remember, and Calculator that allows you to perform mathematical operations on the wrist, including tip calculations or expense sharing.
Until now, Apple Watch applications had to be installed from the iPhone App Store but with watchOS 6 it is possible to access the nearly 20,000 apps available for watchOS from the watch itself without using the iPhone.
I have found a few third-party apps that I prefer to use on the watch than on the iPhone. One of them is Shazam because of the immediacy of activating it from the clock without having to take out the smartphone. Another one that I also occasionally use is that of my car that allows me to open and close my vehicle without removing the key.
I miss some apps with Google Maps, which could be quite useful on the wrist, or WhatsApp to be able to start conversations or read messages from silenced groups that do not send a notification.
Physical Activity and Health
The Activity app continues to show three rings with your Movement, Exercise and Standing statistics. The Movement ring indicates how many calories you have burned, the Exercise ring indicates how many minutes you have been doing moderate activity, and the Standing ring indicates how many times you have been standing for at least one minute at different times.
It is very easy to share your activity with other Apple Watch users and compare your activity level with that of other people to get additional motivation.
In addition, you can challenge your friends to compete for a week to see who closes the most movement rings.
The Apple Watch Series 5 sends motivational messages at some times of the day to encourage you to exercise and close some of the rings.
As a novelty, watchOS 6 adds a functionality called Trends that makes the watch aware of the pace at which you walk, the floors that you climb or the maximum VO2, and shows if there are changes up or down.
Daily statistics are saved in the iPhone Activity and Trends app compares the average of the previous 90 days with the overall performance during the last 365 days.
If your brands have fallen, you receive training suggestions to improve. It is certainly a good way to motivate you to exercise, especially if as you lead a rather sedentary life.
The Training app allows us to track our sports sessions. It allows you to set specific objectives such as time, distance or calories and then track progress and show a summary of the results obtained.
Among the training we can select are walking, running, cycling, treadmill, exercise bike, elliptical, rowing, stepper, high-intensity interval training, hiking, swimming in the pool, swimming in open water and yoga.
One of the characteristics of the Apple Watch Series 5 is the presence of a GPS chip, which allows you to go for a walk, run or pedal without carrying the iPhone in tow with the certainty that the detailed route will be recorded. At the end of the training, we get all the information that can be expected: distance traveled, heart rate, medium rate, etc.
We can consult the detailed statistical information of each training in the iPhone Activity app. In the case of training such as walking and running, the route we have traveled is recorded on a map with different colors that reflect the intensity of the exercise in each place.
Unfortunately, there is no way to export this data to other training platforms such as Smashrun or Strava, if you want to share it with friends who do not use an Apple Watch.
During training, the Apple Watch Series 4 shows various measurements such as elapsed time, current pace, heart rate, distance, average pace, active calories, and total calories consumed.
One of the features of the Apple Watch Series 5 is the possibility of recording the heart rate throughout the day, which we can check later in the iPhone Health app.
The Apple Watch Series 5 can notify you when your heart rate exceeds a certain threshold (by default, 120 beats per minute) while you are at rest, as well as if your heart rate is too low.
The Apple Watch Series 5 also warns if it identifies atrial fibrillation by repeating five irregular heart rhythms. Articular fibrillation is a condition characterized by uncoordinated atrial beats, producing a rapid and irregular heartbeat.
The Apple Watch Series 5 also allows you to register an electrocardiogram (ECG) from the watch itself. To use that functionality, you must touch the Digital Crown with your finger to close the loop with your body. The ECG is registered in the Health app and can be exported to a PDF in case you want to share it with your doctor.
Registering the ECG at any time can be very useful for people who occasionally experience some exception but when they go to the doctor everything is correct.
Apple has also added a new app called Noise focused on hearing health. This app warns you if the ambient noise level is too high for you to get away or put on some plugs. If it detects that the decibels have reached a worrying level, it notifies you with a touch on the wrist.
Another interesting app if you live a little stressed is Breathing, which occasionally suggests that we take a break. The app guides you with small touches on your wrist when you must inhale and exhale. At the end of the breathing session, you get your heart rate measurement.
It is not necessary to wait for the watch to propose to stop breathing, but you can start one of these sessions with a duration between 1 and 5 minutes whenever you want. In addition, you can carry them out at any time – in your workplace, in the car or on the sofa at home.
The Apple Watch Series 5 does not track sleep natively, but I use an app called Auto sleep that costs € 3.49 in the App Store and automatically monitors your sleep hours, sleep quality, etc. The operation is quite good, although I would like Apple to incorporate this functionality natively in the watch.
The Apple Watch Series 5 offers, according to Apple, an autonomy of 18 hours, the same as the previous model despite the fact that the new watch has always active screen functionality and is continuously measuring the noise level.
In my experience, the measure of official autonomy that Apple gives is quite traditional since I usually obtain an autonomy of more than 24 hours, depending on the use I make of the watch.
Certain functions, such as tracking sports activities, significantly reduce the autonomy of the watch. For example, if you go running for an hour and listen to music at the same time, you will see the battery drop around 25% at that time.
In my case, I wear the Apple Watch Series 5 all the time, even when I sleep, to monitor sleep. I only take it off and put it to charge in the morning, for about an hour, while having breakfast and I get ready in the morning, although I don’t always reach 100%. On weekends I charge it for longer to reach 100%.
The Apple Watch Series 5 does not offer the autonomy of 5-7 days of some activity wristbands but, in return, offers many more features and a large screen.
The Apple Watch Series 5 uses the same type of exclusive charger as the original model and takes approximately 2 hours to charge. I would like it to be compatible with Qi-standard wireless charging since the iPhone is compatible with this type of charging, I have wireless chargers scattered around the house, the office and even the car.
The most economical Apple Watch Series 5 is the aluminum model and the price increases significantly if we opt for the stainless steel or titanium model. Finally, the white ceramic model is the one that offers the most premium finish and highest price.
If the iPhone revolutionized the smartphone industry just over a decade ago, Apple Watch has shown that the company is unique in the smartwatch market. In fact, Apple already sells more watches than the entire Swiss watch industry together and is one of its flagship products.
Last year, Apple redesigned the Apple Watch Series 4 to increase the screen size and incorporate new health features such as ECG capture, and this year Apple has refined this model by introducing some improvements to the Apple Watch Series 5.
The Apple Watch Series 5 comes with a design identical to last year’s model with a square box with rounded corners, a large screen surrounded by rather narrow frames and the usual digital crown with a haptic response to the side. As a novelty, the new watch is available in four finishes: aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, and white ceramic.
In conclusion, the Apple Watch Series 5 is a device more than recommended for iPhone users who want to take care of their health and fitness, as well as those who do not want to take the iPhone out of their pocket at any time to see notifications.
All images credits for Apple Watch Series 5